Skip to main content
  •  

Chairman’s Letter

A commitment to corporate responsibility pervades IBM, from new hires to the chairman’s office. In this year’s letter, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano describes IBM’s long-term approach to corporate responsibility, and the IBMers that make it possible.

IBM’s Approach

Through the years, IBM has consistently expanded the definition of corporate citizenship, pushing the boundaries of what is required to be considered a responsible enterprise. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find more detail on our approach to corporate responsibility, and some examples of how that approach manifested itself during the past year.

Communities

At IBM we engage with communities around the world by offering our technology, services and expertise to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems. While the monetary value of these contributions is great, we eschew checkbook philanthropy whenever possible. We believe that this approach is the most efficient, effective and sustainable way to practice good corporate citizenship. And we believe it is helping to make the world work better. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of the contributions IBM made to the global community this past year.

The IBMer

For the last 100 years, IBM has pioneered innovative approaches to hiring, managing and retaining our work force. From some of the earliest thinking on work force diversity to progressive programs for employee well-being and leadership development, this ongoing commitment to our employees is critical to the success of IBM and IBMers. And as the nature of our business changes, we will continue to apply the same innovation and creativity we use to develop products and services to our relationship with employees. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of the commitments IBM made to its work force this past year.

Environment

IBM has long maintained an unwavering commitment to environmental protection, which was formalized by a corporate environmental policy in 1971. The policy calls for IBM to be an environmental leader across all of our business activities, from our research, operations and products to the services and solutions we provide our clients to help them be more protective of the environment. Download this section of the report (2.2MB)

Supply Chain

IBM manages a supply chain of more than 27,000 suppliers in nearly 100 different countries. We understand that managing a supply chain of this size carries with it considerable social responsibility. Even so, we are continually expanding the definition of what it means to run a responsible supply chain, challenging ourselves and our suppliers to reach ever higher standards of social and environmental compliance. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of IBM’s supply chain responsibility efforts over the past year.

Governance,
Ethics and Integrity

Both the size and nature of IBM’s business necessitate that it adhere to the highest standards of conduct. IBM employs more than 400,000 employees, and provides services and technology that support businesses, governments, schools, hospitals and highways. As such, integrity, transparency, privacy and risk management are all crucial parts of our business, and our commitment to making the world work better. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of how IBM is setting the modern standard for business ethics.

A Letter from Samuel J. Palmisano, Chairman, President and CEO: To achieve longterm success, you have to manage for the long term.To achieve long-term success, you have to manage for the long term.

Of course, many people pay lip service to the importance of long-term thinking. But if you take it seriously—if you adopt it as a management philosophy—it leads to certain distinctive behaviors and choices.

From the time of IBM’s founding 100 years ago, IBMers have taken a long-term view—thinking not in quarters, but in decades and beyond. This has shaped how we allocate resources and how we develop talent. It has led us to take a number of bold risks, and to collaborate broadly and deeply—with universities, governments, nongovernmental organizations, even our competitors.

It has also underpinned how generations of IBMers worked to create a distinctive organizational culture—not by default or sporadically, but deliberately. Not grounded in products or charismatic leadership, but in shared values.

Importantly, it shaped IBMers’ perspective on our company’s role in society. Indeed, long-term thinking is not only the key to business survival, it’s also the best definition I know of corporate responsibility.

For a century, our company has pioneered science and technology. It has also pioneered progressive workforce policies, environmental stewardship and community service. From Social Security, to equal opportunity employment, to advances in education, healthcare and more, IBMers’ innovations have changed the way the world literally works. Many examples are contained in this report, and many more are described on our Centennial Web site.

Today, it all comes together in our work to build a smarter planet. This agenda encompasses everything we are as an organization. And one of its most profound consequences has been the convergence of our business and citizenship strategies. Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense. You cannot optimize complex systems like food, water, energy, education and cities without simultaneously expanding access to underserved populations, increasing their transparency and architecting their environmental sustainability.

In addition, you cannot do it alone. A world that is becoming a system of systems is a world of inherent multiplicity and diversity. Effective action, therefore, is necessarily collaborative. We are seeing this in thousands of smarter planet engagements around the world, in the work of our Corporate Service Corps teams in emerging markets, in the success of our Smarter Cities Challenge and in many other ways.

Which brings me back to the deeper notion of corporate responsibility that is the subject of this report. Far more than “giving back to society,” the idea of long-term responsibility leads both to an ambitious notion of the kind of work you tackle, and to a distinct management approach, encompassing investment, talent, policy, governance and stakeholder engagement.

Most fundamentally, it leads you to unleash the ideas and deepen the expertise of your people. Products, services, technologies—and CEOs—come and go. But from decade to decade, it is IBM’s culture, its corporate character, that endures. And it is IBMers who manifest our character in action.

On this report, you will read about some of the ways IBMers are doing so. Indeed, as this report becomes available, one of the largest and potentially most consequential demonstrations of IBMers’ societal responsibility is underway. Through our Centennial Celebration of Service, IBMers around the world are devoting at least eight hours during 2011 to apply their talent and expertise to civic and societal needs. I can’t wait to see the impact.

In this work, and in what we do every day, my colleagues and I know that we are only scratching the surface of what is possible on a smarter planet. And that is why we also know that our first century, for all its remarkable milestones, was just a harbinger of our second.

Signature - Sam Palmisano
Samuel J. Palmisano

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer